MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said China should “temper” its behavior after another Philippine military aircraft flying over the disputed South China Sea was shooed away by the Chinese.
Duterte said no one can create artificial islands in international waters like the South China Sea and claim its airspace.
“You cannot create an island and say the air above it is yours,” Duterte said in a speech before business leaders in Malacañang.
“I hope China would temper its behavior. I don’t want to quarrel with China,” said the President.
Duterte made this statement after a BBC report showed the Chinese shooing away a Philippine plane flying over the Spratlys archipelago.
“Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again. Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences!” a voice said.
The CNN and BBC, which were given last Friday a rare chance to board a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane and fly over the Spratlys, also witnessed how the Chinese told the US plane to leave the area, albeit in a calmer manner.
“US military aircraft, this is China. Leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding,” a voice said.
Since assuming presidency, Duterte has sought to downplay Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing in exchange for improved ties with the world’s second largest economy.
Duterte has also refused to flaunt the Philippines’ victory against China in a United Nations-backed arbitration court in 2016 which invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims to the waters.
His predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, initiated the case against China but the ruling was handed down less than a month after the incumbent assumed power.
Duterte and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano have drawn criticism for Manila’s policy towards China.
But the President defended his approach, saying Manila cannot yet stand up to Beijing, whose military and economy are far superior.
Cayetano, for his part, has insisted that Manila’s quiet diplomacy does not mean an abandonment of its claims.